Buying headphones can be a confusing decision with so many kinds to choose from, let alone understand. If you’ve ever wondered at some of the terms used or what the advantages of each type are, read on.
We’ll get into discussion of major headphone designs and even cord information below, but first there are two items that bear mentioning to better understand what follows. First, since air pressure plays a big role in how we hear, a headphone’s seal is important in the way they will sound. Second, headphones at the most fundamental level come in two designs: open and closed. What this means essentially is that a headphone is either sealed off from the outside or vented to allow air (and sound) to pass freely.
Open vs. Closed Design
Generally open headphone designs are described as being more “natural” sounding, but this can come with drawbacks. Everything going on in the room around you will intrude on your music. This can occasionally be useful, but is often a hindrance that requires turning the volume up higher. Also, your music leaks out just as easily, which can bother others nearby if the area is otherwise quiet.
Closed headphones on the other hand offer a much more intimate listening experience and are nearly silent to those around you. The one disadvantage compared to open designs is that the bass can be muddier or certain other sound characteristics overly pronounced.
MAJOR TYPES OF HEADPHONES
These are among the most common headphones in the mass market, largely due to their portability. They are light, easy to shove in a pocket, and fit right in your ear. Earbuds are inexpensive and easy to find in any store that sells electronics.
Being this small can come with a cost. The downside of earbuds is that they lack the driver size and the isolation to produce a high-quality listening experience. Models have varied slightly in size and shape attempting to improve upon this dilemma, but ultimately it is what it is. A common price ranges for this type is $10-50. Blackpods
Earcup designs are the other most common type of headphone. Many of the behind-the-head style headphones you see are great examples. These are larger than earbuds, and work by sitting on the ear rather than in it. This larger design allows for a fuller range of sound and better power handling, but still lacks much of a seal between the ear and headphone. The result is the loss of detail and bass compared to other types. Still, this design is also inexpensive and easy to find, and still pretty portable. Typical price range for this type: $15-50.
Supra aural headphones are larger still from the earcup design. They work again by sitting on the ear, but cover the entire ear and create a better seal by contact pressure (produced by the headband). This pressure can sometimes be uncomfortable for long listening sessions.
Overall range and detail are improved in this design from earcups, but at the cost of portability. These tend to be bulkier and heavier, but lighter than the circum aural designs we’ll discuss in a minute. Essentially, this type of headphone tries to play the middle ground between earcups and full-size headphones. Even in a closed design, however, supra aural headphones will leak sound. These tend to range from $15-100.